#21 Intergenerational friendships

I met Gloria in September, 2008.

I was camping out at an Arizona hotel for work and she was the hotel bartender. A sassy fiftysomething with frizzy white hair, classy black clothes, and bright red lipstick, Gloria was the soul of the place who had been there for years. Twice married, twice divorced, two cancers, and three jobs — she’d seen it all and been it all, with a smile and a story to prove it.

On my second night there I noticed Gloria chatting with everyone like old friends. She knew everyone by name and served up wisecracks and wisdom with every glass of wine. I listened as she talked stocks with bankers, sports with sales guys, and listened with little bits of life advice for folks like me. “I book all our meetings here because of Gloria,” folks on barstools would tell me. “Most of us stay here because of her.”

Since my trip was a few months long and I was brewing with a broken heart, Gloria became a trusted listener, confidant, and friend. Before I got shipped home a group of us took her for a big Mexican meal and had a fun night laughing and telling stories over spicy shrimp tacos.

When I got home I told my friend Joey about Gloria and he smiled and told me about a lady in his apartment building he’d become friends with, too. “Basically, I kept leaving my clothes in the communal dryer in the basement for days, and I’d come back to find everything folded in a basket,” he said, laughing. “There would even be a Zip-loc baggie with my underwear in them and a handwritten note pinned to the front saying ‘Hope you don’t mind I moved your clothes! – Hazel’ Anyway, we grab a coffee every so often now.”

Hazel and Gloria are great examples why intergenerational friendships are such rare and wonderful things. I mean, from The Age of Babies, most of us hang out with people our own age. So when we bust through to connect with someone older or younger… well, it’s like a super-sticky bond that shows us completely different views of the world. Suddenly our perspectives gets twisted, our worries seem small, and our intergenerational friendships send us flying far away from it all.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, and here

Wow!!!

The Happiness Equation has just debuted #1 on The Globe’s Canadian and International Bestseller lists! Thank you!

Neil

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#22 Staring at stars

They show up in the dark.

And when you look up in the dark you see their twinkling beauty, burning yesterday, light years away. Stars remind us how small we are, how far we’ve come, how fast we’re flying, and how we’re never all done. Atoms inside us were in outer space one day … and all of our atoms will fly again that same way.

Millions of suns, flickering in silence, shimmering, sparkling, twinkling,

AWESOME!

Photo from: here

Wow!!!

The Happiness Equation has just debuted #1 on The Globe’s Canadian and International Bestseller lists! Thank you!

Neil

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#23 Getting the thank-you wave when you let someone merge ahead of you

Cruising through the streets with our music cranked and our cell phones ringing, it’s sometimes hard to communicate with other drivers sharing the roads. When speeds are high and time’s a ticking, we rely on silent gestures flashed through tinted windows to get our points across.

Now, we all know that The Thank You Wave when you let someone merge in front of you is a great move. It’s highway payment for arriving to your destination one car length later anytime you let someone in.

But it doesn’t end there.

Sure, courtesy wave etiquette may have started with The Thank You Wave, but the magic has spread across other places on the pavement. For instance:

1. The Pre-Wave. As in I’m thanking you because the front tip of my Honda Civic is pointed into your traffic-jammed lane and I know you see me so just let me in. Sure, you can try to avoid eye contact but I’m determined to Pre-Wave you to build up some goodwill.

2. The Apology Wave. Don’t be fooled: even though it looks similar to the thank you wave, the apology wave is typically accompanied by a big grimace instead of a thin-lipped eyebrow raise. Next time you sideswipe a van of teenagers and send them skidding off the highway into a roadside ditch, be sure to offer a heartfelt apology wave.

3. The Go Ahead Wave. You roll up to a four-way Stop at the same time as somebody else and you decide to let them turn first. Maybe they’re a sweet old lady peeking over the wheel or maybe you just want to avoid The World’s Slowest Car Accident. Either way you give them the pleasant, open-palmed Go Ahead Wave, which is sort of how the ladies on The Price Is Right unveil a new solid oak armoire.

Yes, proper courtesy wave etiquette keeps two-way talking alive on our streets and prevents chaos from taking over the highways. So when you let someone in, look out for the Thank You Wave. And when someone lets you in, make sure you smile and wave right back.

AWESOME!

 

Photos from: here and here

Our friend Frank Warren has done it again! PostSecret The Show is touring now! Check out the video below and get your tickets here: (I’ll be going in Toronto!)  – Neil

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#24 Loot bags

What’s a birthday without some loot?

Let’s get this party finished right:

Level 1: The Factory Order. Here’s where mom orders the Barbie, Hot Wheels, or Sesame Street themed birthday kit and it comes with pointy hats, paper plates, and loot bags for all. Now, these bags are usually sealed shut so you must tear them open with your teeth to pull out the pack of stickers, temporary tattoos, and crayons. The Factory Order is a Level 1 loot bag because it lacks love and longevity.

Level 2: The Dollar Store Special. These are tailor made jumbles mixed and matched from that back wall of the dollar store. Plastic hypnotic-eye glasses, rubber bouncy balls, and sparkly pencils are tossed with handfuls of Halloween candy. Now, The Dollar Store Special does get some bonus points for gender tailoring. Girls might score pink headbands or nail polish while boys collect a Whoopee cushion or wrestling action card featuring King Kong Bundy.

Level 3: Homemade Masterpieces. Top of the heap. Homemade masterpieces are beautifully colored paper bags with every kid’s name on them. They have little plastic baggies of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and maybe a scribbled-up bookmark made by the birthday boy’s sister. Masterpieces might have exciting projects like cut-out Styrofoam airplanes or do-it-yourself kid’s crafts — like popsicle sticks, glue, and a picture showing how to make a snowflake. Homemade masterpieces can also be tailored to each kid so nerds can score 3D glasses and blurry comic books while little princesses harness bounties of colorful hair elastics.

Loot bags add big cheers to the end of those wild birthday parties on Saturday afternoon fun. They make the party continue long after kids go home. But, here’s today’s question: Why stop there? Yes, there’s always room for more loot bags in our lives, even as we get older. I say next time you have friends over for a backyard barbecue do everyone a favor and stuff a crumpled paper bag of brownies in their hands as they’re heading out the door.

AWESOME!

Wow, wow, wow!!!

The Happiness Equation just debuted at #1 on The Globe’s Canadian and International Bestseller lists this weekend! Thank you!

Neil

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#25 Kindergarten class photos

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

Hey everyone,

The Happiness Equation is out now!!! This is my brand new non-fiction book containing the nine secrets to happiness. I have been working on it for years and it feels so good to finally share it with you. Check out the trailer, read the first two secrets, and, if you like what you read, please buy a copy!

Thank you so much for your support,

Neil

PS See what Fortune, Macleans, and Canada AM think…or click here for live media hits as they’re coming…

The Happiness Equation - Cover

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#26 Fantasies

I was flipping past a reality show on TV and there was this group of dirty folks in rags stranded on some desert island. They had no food, no showers, and nothing to do except brutally fight each other to avoid getting booted off the show. In the span of a few minutes, I saw them struggle and fail to make a fire, watch their makeshift shelter collapse, and realize that for the next three days they had to survive on a coconut.

Bummer, right?

Well I thought so but the next scene showed them sitting around a cold beach talking about food. “Just think about eating a juicy burger right now,” the tired woman in a yellow bandana began. “With the grease just glistening on it, a square of thick cheddar cheese slowly melting, and crispy bacon on top.”

“Mmmm,” dirty-faced man with neck tattoos continued. “And some hot oily fries beside that. Glistening from the deep fryer… with salt sprinkled all over them … and a crisp dill pickle on the side.”

Everybody started smiling, their eyes were aglow, as their brains sent them soaring somewhere else.

The best fantasies do that.

It’s incredible how our minds can shoot us places we’ve never been before. Fantasies fill us with experiences that feel and seem real… and where anything we want to happen suddenly can. What do you want in your life right now? Who do you want to be with? Where do you dream of going to? Just close your eyes…

… and see it.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here and here

Hey everyone,

The Happiness Equation is out now!!! This is my brand new non-fiction book containing the nine secrets to happiness. I have been working on it for years and it feels so good to finally share it with you. Check out the trailer, read the first two secrets, and, if you like what you read, please buy a copy!

Thank you so much for your support,

Neil

PS See what Fortune, Macleans, and Canada AM think…or click here for live media hits as they’re coming…

The Happiness Equation - Cover

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#27 The three-paycheck month

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker.

No matter what, if you’re working for The Man, there’s a chance you’re getting paid every two weeks. Maybe every other Thursday or every other Friday, maybe dollars dropped into bank accounts or fistfuls of change dropped into sweaty palms.

All I know is if you’re on this schedule, you’re loving the couple months a year when you score three paychecks instead of two. Nobody knows how or why this happens, but let’s hold hands today and agree not to question it. On that third payday, raise your eyebrows, glance left very slowly, glance right very slowly, nod slightly, and carry about your business.

If you’re chiseling away at a mortgage, throwing in for car payments, or dropping coin on a fat phone bill, then you know the bliss that comes with having a tiny bit extra after paying your monthly debts.

So go ahead: Supersize that combo, fill up with high-octane, or just tuck it under your pillow for a rainy day.

AWESOME!

Hey everyone,

The Happiness Equation is out now!!! This is my brand new non-fiction book containing the nine secrets to happiness. I have been working on it for years and it feels so good to finally share it with you. Check out the trailer, read the first two secrets, and, if you like what you read, please buy a copy!

Thank you so much for your support,

Neil

PS See what Fortune, Macleans, and Canada AM think…or click here for live media hits as they’re coming…

The Happiness Equation - Cover

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#28 All the things you learned in third grade

What do you do?

Me, I work in an office but if I try telling people more than that their eyes gloss over. “You lost me at spreadsheets,” my friends say, while yawning and giving the waiter a head nod and ghost pour for another beer.

But I get that — jobs are complicated and it’s hard to understand what anybody does anymore.

When I was a kid I had a big hardcover book showing me all the things I could be when I grew up. “One day,” it said, “you can be a teacher, factory worker, or astronaut! You can be a fireman, doctor, or traffic cop!” The narrator didn’t say anything about strategy consultants, event planning coordinators, or business analysts working on special projects.

Yes, we all started down the same school path but along the way our lives took different turns. Wide roads twisted into off-ramps, off-ramps broke into sidestreets, and sidestreets split into dirty little paths every which way until we all ended up where we are today.

Life gets tricky and sometimes our day jobs feel so far away from everything we learned when we were young. But there’s something so sweet about the things we learned in third grade – about how they shaped our world and got us started on the same page. We started rolling down long lives of learning … but it all started when we all knew the same things:

1. Types of rocks. Wasn’t it mind-blowing to finally learn what we’d been crawling and standing on our whole life? Also, igneous, sedmientary, and metamorphic were fun words to say over and over again. Speaking of fun words, you remember what igneous was made of, right? Magma.

2. How to Brush Your Teeth* (*and other hygiene basics). I miss the days when nurses would come to school and teach everyone how to clean themselves. Anyway, back in third grade my friend Natalie and I were making construction paper crowns in the hallway when a nurse came to visit our class. We completely missed the oversized toothbrush scraping that big set of plastic teeth (obviously stolen from Giant World in Mario 3.) Most kids picked up the basics that day. Me, all I got was gingivitis.

3. Cities and Countries and Planets, Oh My. Did you memorize all the states or provinces? Draw a map of your home country in pencil-crayon? Did you slop papier-mache on a balloon and paint a little globe on it? Or draw a big chart of the planets? These early experiences gave us all a sense of place in the world. Everything was smaller before then.

4. Dinosaurs. No offense to Marco Polo or The Boer War but learning about dinosaurs was the greatest history lesson of all time. “Listen up kids,” your teacher would say with eyes popping wide, sitting cross-legged on the carpet. “Before you got here giant lizards the size of houses stomped around eating things right where we’re sitting today. They all died when a huge meteor crashed into Earth so heads up.” Talk about a bombshell.

5.  Puberty. When it was time for The Talk they shipped in a guest speaker at our school. She put big pink drawings of a boy and a girl on the chalkboard and we had to go sick little brown hair clouds made of construction paper on them. “Here you go Neil,” she said. “Put this hair on any part of the body where you think hair will grow.” There was no Internet so everybody sat quiet the entire time. People took notes.

6. Adding and subtracting. Newsflash: Nobody uses algebra, calculus, and geometry. It was all a ruse! “Hey Hank, can you trigonometry the wall to figure out where the studs are?” Yes, I’m saying getting through life is basic math – adding up tabs at the bar, figuring out if you’ve got enough on your credit card for Christmas, and splitting cable bills with your roomies. We learned it back then and it still comes in handy.

7. Storytelling. When Mrs. Dorsman grabbed her glasses and headed for the rocking chair we scrambled for a good spot on the carpet to hear her spin a tale. We got suspense, funny voices, and cliffhangers. From those early days stories become how we communicate, remember, and share everything.

Yes, the world sure was simpler back in third grade. We started learning hard facts and clear rules that gave our lives hard edges and then colored them in. Names of planets, types of triangles, and the boiling point of water all added certainty in a fuzzy world.

Of course, fuzziness comes back later on, when our baby brains find hidden worlds of complexity and nuance… when we realize we don’t know what’s farther than far, why things are this way, or where we really are. That’s because when the world straightens itself out … it all gets crooked again. When our minds seem settled and still … that’s when the drink swishes and spins. So that’s why it’s nice looking back and feeling all those lessons from yesterday — when everything to know and learn was right inside third grade.

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, here, here, and here

Hey everyone,

The Happiness Equation is out now!!! This is my brand new non-fiction book containing the nine secrets to happiness. I have been working on it for years and it feels so good to finally share it with you. Check out the trailer, read the first two secrets, and, if you like what you read, please buy a copy!

Thank you so much for your support,

Neil

PS See what Fortune, Macleans, and Canada AM think…or click here for live media hits as they’re coming…

The Happiness Equation - Cover

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#29 Going through the carwash with little kids

It’s the suburban amusement park.

When I was a kid there was nothing as exciting as driving through the car wash with my dad. My sister Nina and I would jump up and down screaming as huge cloth rollers smacked the side of our station wagon like zombies. Jet streams of water splashed and smeared across the windows as we blindly defended our invisible fortress of soapy suds. Yes, everything was attacking us – colorful blobs of soap, flashing lights, and twisting brushes – but even with the radio fuzzed out and daylight dimmed down we just kept fighting through the alien world at one mile an hour until we eventually emerged victorious into the sun.

AWESOME!

Hey everyone,

The Happiness Equation is out now!!! This is my brand new non-fiction book containing the nine secrets to happiness. I have been working on it for years and it feels so good to finally share it with you. Check out the trailer, read the first two secrets, and, if you like what you read, please buy a copy!

Thank you so much for your support,

Neil

PS See what Fortune, Macleans, and Canada AM think…or click here for live media hits as they’re coming…

The Happiness Equation - Cover

Photo from: Michael

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#30 The first bite of a piece of gum

It’s always the sweetest.

1. Chicklet style. It’s time to crush that hard outer white shell into a million little pieces. You can do the first bite with your two front teeth (aka The Bugs Bunny) or you can get your back molars in the game from the beginning. Either way, the first bite is your chance to get those superminty shards scraping around your inner cheeks before they quickly dissolve and thousand remaining chews all become the same.

2.Bubble gum cube style. Have you ever had a dentist put that goop on your teeth to make a special imprint? That’s exactly what the Hubba Bubba first bite is like. You can pull it out afterwards and check out your cavities. In a way, you’re like a forest ranger picking up fox tracks in the mud.

3. Juicy Fruit Stick Style. When you have one of these long, flat, and thin pieces of gum you should always curl it onto your tongue like in the commercials. If you did it right the gum sort of swirls together like a snake and you can push it to either side of your mouth for the big bite.

4. Bazooka Joe Style. Those small tiny rectangular pieces of gum are the worst. They are hard as rocks and that first bite might break your teeth. Ideally you get someone else to bite it for you and then take over after that.

Listen up, people: We’ve been chewing gum together for over 100,000 years. So today we stop for a moment to nod back at all our cave-grandparents freshening their breath in The Stone Age and smile at the pure and simple joy that comes from that very first bite.

Chomp it loud and chew it proud.

AWESOME!

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